The first aim of my work was to provide a resource to a large population of individuals who want to issue a formal complaint to the IRS about the LDS Church’s involvement in Proposition 8, but didn’t know how. I posted two other thoughts on why I felt the Church was more hypocritical than many of its counterparts with respect to both supporting “traditional marriage” and overturning a legitimate California Supreme Court ruling. There wasn’t any particular relationship between these ideas, other than my dismay at the Church’s role in the passage of Proposition 8.
As the interest in this blog grows, another goal has appeared: we must demonstrate broad taxpayer concern about the LDS Church’s substantial activities to influence legislation — Proposition 8. While it indeed may not directly lead to revocation of the Church’s tax status, I am hopeful that our work may have three useful consequences, no matter what the IRS decides.
First, submission of an unprecedented number of complaints may convince the IRS to investigate the matter and clarify the “no substantial part” test and whether churches’ instructing their members to engage in substantial activity to influence legislation means those members act as agents of the church. Under certain tests, an expenditure of $20 million qualifies as “substantial”, and such an expenditure by church members at the direct instruction of church leaders may constitute prohibited activity. And, are members of a church, who attend services, donate money to the church, and obey church leaders in conducting their personal lives, agents of that church when they engage in substantial activity to influence legislation at church leaders’ instructions? These gray areas would benefit from clarification, and a large number of complaints may lead to that.
Finally, sufficient interest in this activity could lead to support for amending state and federal regulation of tax-exempt entities. Perhaps this does not merit revocation of the LDS Church’s 501(c)(3) status today, but perhaps the Church’s activities have highlighted the issue in an unprecedented way. Now, there may be enough support to change tax law so that endorsement of and opposition to ballot initiatives are prohibited, just as these entities are prohibited from endorsing or opposing a particular candidate. (This idea will get a new post.)